Forward William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs ended their contract stalemate with a six-year deal that was made public minutes before Saturday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline that would determine his eligibility for this season.
Nylander, 22, was a restricted free agent. His new deal pays him $41.77 million over six seasons and carries an annual average value of $6.9 million against the salary cap.
The first season carries a prorated $10 million salary that comes out to $6.77 million, including a $2 million signing bonus. That means it has a current season average annual value of $10.2 million. The “out years” of the contract after this season carry a cap hit of $6.9 million.
According to TSN, the second year of the deal sees Nylander’s base salary drop to $700,000, with a signing bonus of $8.3 million. In the other years of the deal, it’s $2.5 million in base salary with $3.5 million in signing bonuses. Hence, $24.3 million of his $41.4 million contract is guaranteed through those bonuses.
Nylander has 48 goals and 87 assists in 185 games for the Leafs, who drafted him eighth overall in 2014. He played on the Leafs’ top line with star center Auston Matthews the past two seasons.
“It’s great news. We hope to get him here as soon as possible,” Matthews said after Toronto’s 5-3 win over Minnesota on Saturday night. “He’s a big part of this team. Hopefully, he gets us on a run here.”
Toronto’s players found out the news before the game when coach Mike Babcock emerged from his office to tell them Nylander had signed. Forward Mitch Marner said the players in the locker room immediately grabbed their phones upon hearing the news.
“We’re all really excited about it,” said Marner, who had two assists in Saturday’s win. “We can’t wait to get him back in Toronto.”
Per the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, Nylander had until 5 p.m. ET Dec. 1 to sign a contract and be eligible to play this season. He had been working out with AIK of the Swedish Hockey League since September.
He took to Twitter following the deadline.
Going home pic.twitter.com/neccpyfBVz
— William Nylander (@wmnylander) December 1, 2018
The stalemate with the restricted free agent was a complicated one. The Leafs felt that he was comparable to a player such as Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets, who signed a seven-year deal worth $6 million annually last October. The Nylander camp preferred to use as a comparison Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, who signed an eight-year deal with an annual average value of $8.5 million as a 22-year-old.
Also complicating things were the new contracts Leafs forwards and pending RFAs Matthews and Marner will require before next season, as well as the fact that the contract impasse with Nylander bled into the 2018-19 season, adding to the financial creativity in this deal.
Essentially, Nylander gets the money he was seeking, and the Leafs get the cap hit in the out years they were seeking. In the end, one of the most talented young forwards in the NHL returns to a team that is 19-8-0 this season and has designs on winning its first Stanley Cup since 1967. It is a good contract for both, and it ends a long wait for Toronto fans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.